Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities the internet offers you? The art and illustration industry is quickly becoming a part of the digital world. If you are starting out in this business, you simply have to know your way around the net. Here’s a list of five tasks you must keep in mind while you are surfing the web.
1. Build a Website
This is probably pretty obvious for most of you. It is simply the most convenient way for editors and art directors to see your portfolio of work, and if you do not have a website you will be lacking one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Register your own domain name. Having “blogspot” or “angelfire” in your address will look less professional.
- Keep it simple. Don’t use excessive tricks and fancy animations that take up time and bandwidth. They will probably just annoy your visitors anyway. Show your artwork, show it nicely, and make it easy to get to.
- Once you’ve created your website, plug it everywhere. Put the address on all of your promotional materials, attach it at the end of your emails, and get links up on other places such as a blog or your friends’ websites.
2. Create a Blog
A blog is also a type of website, but their unique format provides a different type of outlet to showcase your work. Because they are more personal and informal in nature, they are great for sharing things like sketches, works-in-progress, and thoughts about your artwork.
To really take advantage of your blog, here are some steps you must take:
- Post regularly. By doing so, you are basically forcing yourself to come up with new artwork, sketches, ideas, and experiments. In short, you will grow as an artist.
- Stay focused. If your blog is linked to your portfolio website, you will probably get some visits by potential clients. Although blogs are great for sharing your more personal side, limit it to major life events and artistic endeavors. If you need to let your friends and family know what your cat did yesterday, go ahead and create a separate blog. Blogger accounts are free anyay.
- Take a look back. A year from now, you can dig through the archives of your blog and see just how far you’ve come. I will occasionally go back in my sketch blog and take a look at my first posts. It’s scary stuff, I tell ya.
For your information, I run two blogs, my sketch blog and the one here at DaniDraws.com. I am constantly trying (and still struggling) to come up with new content for each of them. The experience has been rewarding. So, if you haven’t yet, try it. If you already have a blog, make a goal to dedicate yourself to it more fully.
This business can be very lonely, especially if you are a freelance artist working at home. And if no one is looking at your artwork but yourself, it can start to get stale. Since we all don’t live in major cities, and we can’t go to conferences every day, the internet can be a good way to connect with fellow artists. Start with some illustration communities and forums. Visit other artists’ blogs and websites. Share your work and ask for critiques. Participate in online projects and collaborate with other artists.
I’ve done all of this for the past couple of years, mostly for the pure fun of it. It has inadvertently created some pretty cool results. I receive comments and feedback from people all over the world. Hundreds of artists that I’ve never met know my name and my work. I am constantly finding new people who have linked one of my websites onto their own. As a result, I feel like I’m a part of a community, even though I don’t see anyone all day. It really helps me stay motivated with my day-to-day work.
If you are looking for some places to get you started, here are a few websites that I like to visit and contribute to every now and again:
4. Education and Research
One of the biggest disadvantages of an illustrator who is just starting out is simply the lack of experience and knowledge. The world wide web is full of useful information that can help you in this business.
- Business and Marketing. You can find some great tips and advice if you know where to look.
Art Biz Blog, The Purple Crayon, CATugeau.com
- Professional Organizations. Stay up to date with issues and events that are important in the creative industry.
Society of Illustrators, Graphic Artists Guild, SCBWI
- Research Clients. Before you submit your artwork, take a visit to the company’s website. Do they have submission guidelines posted for artists? Is your artwork suitable for the type of work they publish? Do they have a name of an art director or editor posted on the site?
- Find Reference Material. Your art will only be as good as how much you know and how well you’ve done your research. If I need to know what a car from the 1950’s looks like, or what exactly a “flying buttress” is, I’ll load up my web browser and do an image search.
Some sites I like: Google, Google Image Search, Corbis, Flickr, Wikipedia
5. Extra Cash
Everyone could use a little more money in their pockets every now and again. Take advantage of the web by setting up a system that will be an extra source of income for you.
Here’s a few ideas:
- Recommend books through Amazon Associates.
If you have had your work published in a book, create a link to Amazon.com using the Amazon Associates program. Just sign-up for an account and follow the instructions for creating a “Product Link”. Every time someone clicks on your book on your website and makes a purchase on Amazon.com, you’ll receive a commission from the purchase.
- Submit t-shirt designs on Threadless.
Put your designs in the running to get printed on a t-shirt, and win some cash, too. At the very least, there is a great community here.
- Place your artwork on mugs and hats at CafePress.
Create your own “store” of products featuring your artwork.
- Order bookmarks and greeting cards of your artwork from PSPrint.
I’ve ordered from these guys a few times, and have been pleased by the results. I also like that they have an option to buy “short run” print orders with quantities of less than 500.
- Sell prints at ImageKind.
I personally haven’t tried this service, but it looks interesting.
- Publish and sell a sketchbook through Lulu.
This might be a good option if you don’t want to assemble the book yourself.
- Earn money from advertisements through Google Adsense.
You’ll notice I use these on this site. I use this money to help pay for the site fees. I actually wouldn’t recommend putting these ads on your portfolio site or blog (I think it looks a little tacky), but if you have a side blog or website, this can be an easy way to get a few extra dollars.
- Use PayPal to sell artwork on your own website.
This Ebay-owned service is an easy way to accept credit cards and international currency. Beware of the spammers, though.
So, the next time you are surfing the web, take the time to try a few new things. Connect with the world, get your name out there, and take advantage of all the opportunities the internet has to offer…